Graphics Card Not Detected? Here’s The Fix

Nobody likes when they get an error like this, especially those not well-versed in the specifics of hardware/software interaction, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

There are different reasons why your GPU isn’t being detected and you can encounter this error in different places which further adds to the confusion.

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GPU Not Detected In Windows

A PC Build With RGB
It would be a shame if your PC build looked this this, but it wasn’t able to detect your GPU

This problem can occur for various different reasons, but it’s exceptionally irritating to have Windows automatically switch to the integrated GPU and you don’t notice until you want to play your favorite video game. Admittedly, this is an extreme case, but it serves to illustrate the point.

It can also happen for seemingly random, unexplained reasons, but the truth is that there’s an explanation for everything that happens in your PC and this is no exception. Sometimes when you’re playing an especially graphically intensive game, your GPU may overheat and temporarily shut down. And sometimes, they don’t come back online and just return a black screen.

Luckily, most modern motherboards (or CPUs) come with an integrated graphics card and you can simply switch your monitor to that output (found on motherboard’s backplate, next to every other device input, like USB or PS/2). That way you can troubleshoot the issue “from the inside”.

At that point, your first step should be getting to Device Manager and finding your GPU and seeing if it’s disabled. If you click on your GPU, you can see that and at the same time simply click ‘Enable device’ and that should fix the problem.

Enabing The GPU Inside Windows 10 Device Manager
The text will show “Enable device” if the GPU is disabled

However, it’s also unfortunately possible that the Device Manager won’t even recognize your discrete GPU and will instead just show properties of the integrated one. In that case, you’ll probably have to check the BIOS/UEFI, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Sometimes the ‘GPU not detected’ error will occur upon the installation of new drivers when something goes awry. Be it a faulty driver on its own, or new driver’s incompatibility with another component inside the PC, the options are too numerous to name entirely.

It may be a little cheeky to claim that those are squarely manufacturer’s fault. More often, that’s a user’s mistake in downloading the wrong driver. In that case, you want to carefully examine the GPU model you have and download the proper driver while removing the previous mistakenly installed one.

However, as the GPU technology advances, the manufacturer’s are moving to a method of having a GPU management software installed automatically when a new card is inserted. This software then takes responsibility for automatically updating drivers.

Sometimes, this issue can happen after Windows update where the only solution is to roll back the update and not install it after you make sure this problem no longer persists by checking related forums and communities or by tediously installing the update, checking for yourself and either getting a positive result or being forced to roll back the update once again.

BIOS/UEFI Issue And Fix

Windows 10 UEFI
Accessing the BIOS/UEFI settings is easy in Windows 10

So, first and foremost, UEFI is a successor to BIOS, but due to the way BIOS was ingrained into our collective minds, it’s still widely used, but it refers to UEFI, instead of BIOS.

Okay, I understand that that sounded complicated, but we will refer to UEFI as BIOS to avoid confusion.

BIOS is in charge of your hardware and that should be the first logical step in checking whether your GPU is disconnected. If you’re having an issue that we talked about earlier where your monitor doesn’t detect the GPU and only shows a black screen, you can use the integrated GPU to access the BIOS.

If you’re lucky enough, BIOS will detect your discrete GPU and you can simply enable it by changing its status from disabled. If your GPU is not detected at all and BIOS is showing its PCIe slot as empty, you have a bigger issue on your hands. But, don’t worry, for every PC problem, there’s a solution.

Before we get to the case opening part, it’s good to check if your BIOS is up to date. This is a finicky operation, so it’s best to carefully follow the instructions from your motherboard’s manufacturer. Even if your BIOS is up to date, getting it reflashed may fix the problem.

If that doesn’t work, you don’t have many options left.

Opening Up The Case

Opening up a PC Case
Opening up your PC case is easy. Photo credit: The Verge

Now we’re getting down and dirty. Opening up the case can be a daunting task if you’ve never done it, but don’t fret, it’s not that complicated.

First, you need to check if the power cables are properly inside the GPU. Also, even if they are, due to poor cable management (we don’t judge), it’s possible that they are bent at an awkward angle, making them lose contact.

Then, you should check if your graphics card is properly seated in the PCIe x16 lane. A pretty good tell if it’s seated properly is if the back port panel is sitting fully on the back of the case. If it doesn’t sit perfectly, you should slowly apply force and push the GPU down.

There’s also the standard turning it off and on again approach where you can fully remove the GPU and then return it, although this likely won’t solve the problem

Another thing to check is if your PSU has enough power to handle your GPU’s highest demands. It’s commonly assumed that the GPU’s base power use is at roughly 40% of your PSU’s power capability which opens the option of it using 50% of available power when running heavy-duty operations.

From here, things only get grimmer.

If you still haven’t been able to find the problem, then your only option is to remove the GPU and test it in a different PC that you know works for sure. If the GPU works there, then it’s likely that your PCIe x16 slot malfunctioned. The easiest solution here is to get a new motherboard, and that’s a different headache.

If your GPU doesn’t work in that other PC either, then you can either hope that warranty (if the card is still under it) covers whatever damage has occurred or you’ll have to get it repaired at your own expense. Alternatively, it may be time to look for a new graphics card.

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Aleksandar Cosic

Alex is a Computer Science student and a former game designer. That has enabled him to develop skills in critical thinking and fair analysis. As a CS student, Aleksandar has very in-depth technical knowledge about computers, and he also likes to stay current with new technologies.